Is a Breakthrough in Longevity at Hand?
INTERESTING STUFF – 21 November 2015

An Old Woman's “Runner's High”

Well, not exactly but it's just as good as far as I'm concerned. Let me explain.

About three years ago, I set out to lose the 40 pounds I had allowed myself to gain after I retired in 2004.

That extra weight was affecting my ability to function in even the most ordinary ways. For example, I could not vacuum the house in one go without a rest part way through nor carry all the groceries up the walk from the car. Even taking the trash to the bins was an effort that left me breathing hard.

Losing the weight, I determined, involved not just a better diet – healthy while taking in fewer calories than I expended. It would also require regular exercise too because overall fitness to get me through the rest of my life in as good shape as possible was the larger goal.

I am no good at team sports. I don't like them, I have no interest and as you can imagine from that, I was always the last to be chosen for required high school gym teams. It didn't matter to me even then; it's not something I ever cared about.

But I was and am good at calisthenics, ballet exercises, gymnastics, tai chi and I am familiar with the principles of fitness.

So with the help of Dr. Google, I put together a routine that involves strength work, cardio, flexibility and balance/core exercises. Because I can't afford the prices gyms charge these days, it had to be a routine I could do at home with nothing much more than a resistance band, hand weights and my body itself.

Along with the weight loss, this has done wonders for me, for my body and how I live. I hardly notice vacuuming, I climb stairs with nary a huff or puff and I can carry many pounds of groceries from the car in one go.

Without John Oliver-level profanity, however, I cannot express how much I dislike doing these exercises four days a week.

I have maintained the schedule by regularly reordering the routine, changing out or rearranging the individual exercises, finding new ones and increasing reps or weights as necessary to keep it difficult enough and vaguely interesting for 45 minutes.

In three years, I haven't wavered because once having achieved the weight loss and the increased fitness became manifest daily in my stamina and well-being, I am afraid to lose it.(A little fear in this case isn't bad.) Now, however, a new reason to keep going has emerged.

As I explained above, I have next to no interest in physical activity beyond getting from point A to point B. (Too bad – all this would be much easier if I did.) But I have long been curious about the phenomenon of “runner's high.” Web MD reports that some runners experience a euphoria,

"'...a feeling of being invincible, a reduced state of discomfort or pain, and even a loss in sense of time while running,' says Jesse Pittsley, PhD, president of the American Society for Exercise Physiologists.”

That's something I would like to know about but since it was not/is not in my nature to take up running, it remained a mystery to me.

Then, about six weeks ago, after my usual morning workout and seemingly for no reason, I felt sensationally good. Maybe not “invincible” but amazingly energized both physically and mentally. My mood was high and all seemed extra-well with my world.

Nice, but I didn't much think about it until I realized it was happening after every workout.

I asked a 77-year-old friend who does a much heavier workout than mine, at a gym three days a week, about it. He couldn't say if it is related to runner's high but suggested I tell other elders in the “aging well” program I was then attending. It might give them inspiration to begin or continue an exercise program, he said.

Another friend who regularly ran long distances when he was younger said whatever I am feeling is definitely not runner's high. But I know that it is also definitely something good.

So although I won't experience runner's high, this will have to do and for me, it is a wonderful thing I look forward to.

Now, on those mornings when I say to myself, “Oh, you can skip the workout; who would know” (which is every workout day), I remember the “high” and get on with the routine.

Why this would happen suddenly after three years of regular workouts without it is as much a mystery to me as runner's high itself. But I'll take it. In addition to healthy behavior that keeps my body strong and flexible, I now have this bonus, feel-good outcome that some people take drugs - legal and not - to achieve. But I get it without effort even if I dislike the exercise sessions as much as I always have.

I'm telling you all this because the aging well program is finished and I agree with my friend that I should share this experience with someone. Today, you're it.

Does anyone here have any first hand experience with this phenomenon?

Comments

BRAVO!

In my 40s I was a runner -- and yes, the runner's high is great. However, all those years pounding pavement ended up causing knee damage. Then I switched to biking, did that for years; then just walking. Nowadays I don't get much exercise, due to spinal and knee issues. When medicare starts for me, late next year, I hope to get the knee and back issues resolved. I MISS regular aerobic workouts, and that "high" is part of the reason, as well as just overall feeling good.

Three years. You deserve a medal. Well done!

No, I don't get high on exercise. Luck (hard working) you!

Not seeing any point to running, I can say that I have experienced a "Walker's high". It seems to kick in after about 5 miles when I feel the urge to walk in to a bar, have a beer and get high.
But seriously folks, there is a feeling of exhilaration after a good long walk, especially if done briskly. Plus there is the advantage of less impact on the knees.

I've never experienced anything like it.

I do the Sit & Be Fit DVDs and Chair Dancing DVDs almost everyday. I do feel better when I've finished but I couldn't call it a high at all.

No high, but recently I started Water Arthritis classes at a rehab facility literally 5' from my door. It has done wonders for my osteo-arthritis & my depression. I feel great after 45 minutes exercise in the 85 degree pool...........spirits lifted but nothing like the "high" you are reporting. Have a great w/end. :) Dee BTW, I'm most impressed by your accomplishments which I know require lots of self-discipline. D.

Back in the '70s I was a pretty dedicated jogger and did find it rather addictive because it made me feel so good. (Maybe just the sense of accomplishment?) It got to where if I missed a few days, I actually started feeling bad, dull, sluggish.

Exercise does cause a release of endorphins, a natural "feel good" hormone. Even if you don't reach the level of a "runner's high," that's likely what you are experiencing. Enjoy!

I have always been a regular exerciser but the last two years brought an change to my routine that I couldn't control and I became completely out of shape. I ended up depressed and going to all kind of Doctors who wanted to put me on all kind of medicines. Luckily, I didn't start any medicines and finally was able to start exercising again. Depression lifted, started feeling good again and then one day much like you after an exercise session I felt exhilarated.
It is easy to forget how much the mind and body are connected.
Bernadette

Having just compiled a list of "Hell and Brimstone" media warnings of reasons we should fear not exercising, and a list of "Stick and Carrot" benefits of exercising, I'm going to add your "endorphin high" to my list of rewards. I'm very impressed. It must be 40 years since I ran daily, and thus, experienced the "high" you talk about. Bravo, Ronni!

I felt like that when I was doing yoga regularly, but alas having a knee replacement and now some balance issues stopped that -- unnecessarily; I could still have a yoga practice if I modified it. JUST takes discipline.

Ronnie, would you consider sharing your routine in some upcoming post?

Good on you, Ronni!

For at least 4 mornings a week, I do a modified walk/run at the middle school's foam-filled track. Each time, however, I have a bit of high(energized, euphoric) that sets my day and I'm good for about 6 hours. This was til recently when I was off exercising for a bit and dragged through the days as I put on the pounds. For me, there was a need to develop upper-body strength to support these healthy legs, so I've just begun the 12-minute women's Canadian air force exercises - I figure if Ruth B. Ginsburg can do them, so can I. So far, so good. If I had access to a pool, that I would do instead. I do think a change-up now and then keeps it interesting.

All this takes time, but arising before 6 leaves plenty of time to live the day. It was a pain in the beginning with no results for a time, but then, as you explain, 'something' kicks in. Never having been a runner, I don't know what runner's high truly feels like.

At any age, I'd avoid pavement, if possible, and invest in good, supportive shoes. Here in CA and probably most places, the public school ground are for the community at large to use when school isn't in session.

The only exercise I've ever gotten high on was daily running. I didn't mind doing it alone or with a group of friends. But, of course, it became too hard on my knees and hips and I was reduced to walking and biking... not nearly as enjoyable as running. I share my Dad's imperative to keep moving vigorously, but also got some bad genes that have limited my activity lately.

Like you, Ronni, I really don't like stationary, solitary excercise. Not fun. Lucky for me, my local Parks and Rec has a range of affordable classes available that cover aerobics to yoga to a "Silver Sneakers" class for elders. Four mornings a week I go to the public gym and work out with a group which provides a reason to get out of the house and pleasant sociability, but, alas, no runner's high.

I really, really admire your self discipline in sticking with both your diet and your (boring), solitary exercise program. I'm glad you've reached the place where there's more than personal satisfaction as a reward. Wow, a real endorphin high!

I have been a pretty regular runner (now really a fast walker, but I still think of myself as a runner) for over 30 years. I've never had what I would call a runner's high.

But I have often had and still have occasions when I feel a sort of deep contentment in sheer activity. Ten years or so ago my feet stopped being able to take long stretches of moving on pavement, so all my longer jaunts are on trails. I am able within minutes to get to several small mountains near the city where I can trot around, usually very much alone in nature. I know one day my ability to do this will end, but so long as I can keep moving, I'll be out there regularly.

I used to run in my younger days, and in my opinion the so-called runner's high is vastly overrated. It's akin to the relief you feel when you stop banging your head against the wall. That being said, there's no question about it -- in general, exercise makes you feel better, more energetic, happier, sexier, and it makes you sleep better too.

I used to run when I was young, and remember the runner's high. Then I went decades without running. Because of health problems I've taken up a number of exercises, and switched to a plant based diet. I've lost 25 pounds. I do feel like I'm 15 years younger. And, I know if I skipped exercising for more than an occasional day here and there, I'll quickly age. Exercise and diet is like having a Dorian Gray painting in the attic.

Tom...
Someone else mentioned regular exercise improving my sleep too. It hasn't changed a whit for me. After years of fighting it, I've given in to segmented sleep (can't really avoid it). I first go to sleep at about 7PM, waking quite naturally two or three hours later. Then reading or watching a movie for a couple of hours, before falling asleep again for another four hours.

It's just how it is now in my life. Trying to change it took up way too much time, was irritating and didn't work anyway.

When I occasionally accept an event with other people in the evening, I can stay awake although I'm none too bright (stupid might be a closer description) but that doesn't change my waking hour - 4AM. That seems to be set in stone and on the rare occasion I don't wake then, the cat makes sure I'm up by 4:30AM.

In 2008 I discovered Nia, a combination of dance, martial arts, yoga, etc. I have all six of their DVDs and alternate them with twice a week sessions. I still love doing all of them, not yet bored. I have much more stamina. My balance is so good my strong dogs can jump on me and I no longer fall over. My legs are very muscular. What I like about it is that you can do each activity to the level that works for you. If something hurts, I modify what I do.
I always loved to dance so this works well for me.

Ronni--Some postulate that segmented sleep was historically the norm. Yes it is inconvenient but may be healthier overall than the longer 8-10 hours that are more common today. (You probably know this already)

I am certainly not a member of this disciplined group of people. About 4 years ago I decided to lose 20 pounds and I was within 2 pounds of my goal. Then out of town company arrived with many meals out at which I foolishly ordered the special treats I had been denying myself. This was followed by the holidays and all of the rich yummy food I loved. Not being very strong willed I guess, I indulged and gained 10 pounds.

Why is it so hard to lose weight and why does it take so long while a short relapse puts those pounds back on quickly? I am still trying to lose the unwanted 10 pounds. I laboriously lose a few and then I am invited out to lunch and the pounds magically come back.

As for exercising - I am very good for about a month then I skip a day here and there and soon I am not exercising at all. I guess I have very little self discipline, but I am still chugging along and feeling relatively good so I doubt that I will change.

I do admire you , Ronni, and wish I had your determination. Congratulations on staying the course.

I should add that my high is just being able to get out of bed in the morning.

Yes, I experience something similar every time I work out or exercise in other ways. When I (like you) formalised a fitness routine, I expected to feel a kind of glow, so it wasn't a surprise. It's clear how many people, including me, have already been inspired by your story — just multiply the comments by 95. I'm writing a blog on a personal "boot camp for the bonus years", and I love it when friends say that an article on exercise has motivated them to start exercising.

Way to go, Ronni.

You stuck to your goal and that takes discipline.

Big respect.

I know that "natural high" feeling.

Last year I quit playing badminton, because it just got too competitive.

I didn't enjoy being coached and told where to stand, how to play aggressively.

So I signed up for Zumba.

Three classes.

Best thing ever!

The teacher gets us to chant, holler, shake our booties in every direction.

And the music? Pitbull, Bruno Mars, disco, you name it. It's loud, it's motivating, it makes me laugh the whole time.

I met a bunch of very cool people there.

The teacher adores dancing, and and she smiles all through the class. I take three classes a week with her and also a Pilates class which is excellent for core strength.

Back to the Zumba class.

Doesn't matter what is going on in my personal life. The minute the teacher hits the music button, and we start, I forget everything.

I only wish I would have signed up years ago, but it's never too late.

We dance, sweat, run around like bobcats on fire for a solid hour.

And then we leave feeling like gladiators.

That's one heck of a natural high.

Kudos too to you Ronni for your diligence, especially doing it on your own. That takes a lot of persistence. I admire that.

I've run in the past and experienced the endorphin high. Now I either walk and/or get on the elliptical machine. What keeps me going on walking is either listening to the radio or an audiobook--have read many books that way. And on the elliptical am currently watching "Orange is the New Black" on the i-pad. Also the fitbit which I wear is a great motivator to get in those steps. Can't recommend those devices highly enough. I find if I go a day with little exercise, I feel just "not right", a bit irritable, and just "off". I think exercise, if not the elixir of youth, is at least a key to aging well, and staying active as long as possible.

As much as I would like to be able to claim a disciplined exercise regimen, I can't. I do get a lot of moderate exercise through daily activities including a lot of yard work and going up and down stairs several times a day. On days when I do a lot of these things, I often experience an energy burst, sometimes even what I would describe as exhilaration, (but not sure about a 'high') for a while. I realized long ago that I seem to require a moderate amount of physical activity every day to avoid lethargy. However, by the end of the day, typically around 10:30 or later, I am always exhausted and can read only about half a page of what ever I'm reading before segmented sleep hits me too, waking me again between 3:30 and 4:30. I'd love to get back to a sounder longer block of sleep, but I don't know how to make that happen. Maybe I should try doctafill's zumba suggestion.

I, too, admire your self-discipline and accomplishment Ronni. You're always an inspiration.

I always feel extra good after my workouts. Then again, I guiltily eat ice cream and an occasional cookie at work. I continue to do a daily workout in the pool and I do my PT in the hot tub. It's been worth it for me to join the Y at senior rates.

Yes, after a good yoga class. Suddenly my world is free of anxiety and doubt, I feel strong and in place.

Yes, I have always been lucky enough to achieve this feeling when I work out. Cannabinoid receptors are considered the source of this good feeling we experience when we exercise. Yes! the stuff that is in marijuana! It used to be thought it was endorphins that caused the runners high, but latest research suggests the cannabinoid link. Google it to check on the research.

Although not physical exercise, I have begun to feel this way after meditating. A deep feeling of contentment and ease. Meditation has helped me erase my regrets about the past and worry about the future. I a much more able to live in the present moment.

Good for You!!! Yoga sort of does that for me; I sometimes feel unduly well and happy at the end of a class. And I know I felt better when I did morning stretching and modified Yoga at home every day; but it is way too easy to tell myself that it won't matter. You've given me the poke in the rear that I need! -- i'll start in again tomorrow.

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